Nutt: 'The Egg Bowl. Very, very big."

The following is Coach Houston Nutt's Monday press confernece before the Mississippi State game.

Nutt: After watching the film we had a good walk-through Sunday and got the soreness out. I was really proud of our team and how hard they played. Thought that was one of the most physical games of the year. I love the way we're blocking and tackling right now. We need to finish this thing out the right way and end the season the right way by doing the same thing against a very good Mississippi State team.

Q: What have you seen from this MSU team?

Nutt: The biggest thing is that offensively they're keeping the ball. They're running the ball. The clock's moving. They're finding different ways to get the ball to their best guy. And of course when you've got a 240-pound guy like Dixon, who will be a very good professional football player. They find different ways to get him the ball with different schemes, counters, zones, powers. They do a very good job with that. They can lull you to sleep with that and then hit some passes on you. So we have to do a really good job defending. But that's their biggest improvement. They're playing hard on defense. This groiup has always played hard. It just seems like offensively they've done some things to really help themselves.

Q: Is it an advantage to come back from a big game this week where there is no class going on and there is nothing but football, and also that there are so few around to pat themselves on the back about the LSU win?

Nutt: Absolutely. I love this week. Gives our guys a little bit of break from school. Today is still an off day but they can lift no their own. Tomorrow they get back in that schedule. But I do like the way it's set up.

Q: How improved is Bradley Sowell over this season?

Nutt: He's improved every week fundamentally. That's where it starts. You've got to give a lot of credit to Coach Markuson. He works with him so hard. Give a lot of credit to coach Markuson. He's improved by being physical. He's improved his footwork. He understands and anticipates some things. His mind has sped up. He's processing things better. But your feet have to be just as fast. He's put it all together. I'm not saying he's not up there just yet. But if you go back and look at the first game, second game, South Carolina and now fast forward, he's a different tackle. I'm really proud of him.

Q: With the way last year's Mississippi State game unfolded, do you feel you got a real sense of the emotion of the rivalry? What was your first experience like with Ole Miss-MSU?

Nutt: The thing that was so different for me was that you could feel the intensity and competitiveness all over the state. I'll never forget Chancellor Khayat early that Sunday morning after we got back from LSU, and he was in my office. He said I know the LSU game was important, but do you know how important this game is? I said I think I do, and he said I want to make sure you do. I listened to him for about 15 minutes. I knew right then when Chancellor Khayat came in unannounced, I knew this was a big, big game. He'd never been there on a Sunday morning except after that LSU game last year.

Q: Jevan has quietly been playing much better. What's been the key for him?

Nutt: Two things. One, Dexter McCluster. Two, Jevan studying with Kent Austin, zeroing in on exactly what we want to do and how we want to execute. Reading, anticipating, throwing on time, not forcing the ball. Good running and not forcing, concentration, study.

Q: How significant have the changes on the offensive line been?

Nutt: It's been big. Very good for us. It's good we have Brandon Green who can go either way. A good solid backup, and we're not afraid to put him in the game. When you have size – 6-7, 6-6, 300-plus pound guys that can move, that makes it very nice.

Q: How difficult to guard a taking it for granted or letting up.

Nutt: I think it would be difficult if it wasn't Mississippi State. The Egg Bowl. Big. Very, very big. Our guys have been talking about it since Saturday night. Several guys said Saturday night Egg Bowl week. If somebody else I'd be really worried. But our guys understand and they're going to get after it.

Q: Since it's 8-3 vs. 4-7, how do you guard against a letdown?

Nutt: I think it would be difficult if it wasn't Mississippi State. Out of conference or another team? Maybe. But it's Mississippi State. The Egg Bowl. Big. Very big. Our players were talking about Saturday night, and that's unusual after a big win like that. I heard several mention it. They are excited about it and know how big it is. If it was anbody else, I'd be worried. But I think our guys understand, and they're going to get after it.

Q: Can you elaborate on how Dexter makes Jevan better?

Nutt: Dexter makes everybody better. Our linemen don't have to hold their blocks quite as long. The threat of run. When the linebackers and a safety have to keep an eye on 22, it just helps everything. It's a quarterback's best friend. Take the ball from the center, hand it to 22. That's what your quarterback needs. Those plays with the wideouts are easier because of it.

Q: Are you aware MSU is referring to Ole Miss as the school up north?

Nutt: I didn't know they were doing that. I don't read that much, especially during the season. I didn't realize that. It doesn't really bother me or worry me. I don't spend energy on something like that.

Q: In recruiting, how big is this game?

Nutt: Winning is always important. Of course, your instate rivalry is always big. I know last year we had a lot of recruits here. That was probably a swing for us. You look at Patrick Patterson. I think that probably helped a great deal. But you never know. Winning and going to two back to back bowls, I think that is very important. They see guys like Dexter McCluster. They see our guys having fun. If they talk to John Jerry, talk to Peria, Michael Wallace. That's your proof. The players are your best ambassadors and sales people. They know what goes on in your program. But there's nothing like winning. Saturday will do nothing but help. Have to win that game.

Q: Dexter has always been an easy-going guy, but it seems he has found religion this year and is a different person. Have you seen a difference in him?

Nutt: Without a doubt. He has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and I think it's very real. I don't think he just found it but he knew in his heart and he walks it. He's a true example of it. He's the first one in the Bible study on Thursday nights, and he makes the announcement. I see a tremendous change with attitude, the way he talks, the way he goes about things. He's been a special guy to us.

Q: How did that change?

Nutt: He's always been a great person very special. Very respectful. Very good leader. Through Coach Don Decker, Isaac, the people on campus in the FCA program. Todd. Now Jason Cook is on board, a former player. I think you've got to go back to that car wreck. The car wreck was a huge, huge thing in his life that really hit him and hit him hard. When you think hey that could have been me, could have been hurt very badly played, could have not played this year, could have been dead. All those things went through his mind. His family, his baby girl, all those things. There was really something that hit home starting with the car wreck.

Q: How important is Dixon to the Bulldog offense?

Nutt: Anthony Dixon is a very, very good back. I think everybody that looks at film, you see 24. You've got to stop 24. It's important to know where he is. It's not too hard to find him, a big body like that. You've got to stop him. That's very, very important. He's the difference maker for him.

Q: What are your thoughts on the fact that a half dozen or so recruits didn't show up Saturday because of the rally at Fulton Chapel?

Nutt: I don't think it was quite that many when you look at the number. Not quite that many. Basically four. I think we mentioned eight to ten, but that's not right. It's down to four.

Q: Did any of them mention that is why they did not come Saturday?

Nutt: Just a couple that I talked to, yes.

Q: Do you think it's going to make a big difference?

Nutt: No. It won't make any difference at all. They found out and a lot of our recruits found out from this weekend what our students what our students that went over there and protested what went on, I think they saw that, white and black. They saw our atmosphere, white and black, native American, African American, all over that stadium, with one of the greatest atmospheres in college football, one of the greatest games in college football this year was right here in Oxford. I just don't see it.

Q: You don't see it as being a hindrance at all?

Nutt: Not at all. Not at all. I really don't.

Q: Were you proud of the way the students handled it?

Nutt: Absolutely. I was proud too of the parents of our recruits and what they said after the game. I wish I had that recorded about how much they enjoyed it, didn't know it was like this, especially the ones that first get here. When they first get here and have that first-time experience in Oxford, Mississippi, they go away with a whole different view than when you just see something thrown out there that can be negative. They see a whole different view.

Q: What was going through your mind with three minutes left Saturday?

Nutt: Here's what I was thinking. I was really upset when we kicked the field goal upset inside but not letting my team know. It should have been seven. Game's over. Second thing is I was getting ready for overtime. Haven't had one in a long time. So I'm thinking overtime. They do score, but they don't get that two-point play. Now I'm thinking all we have to do is get the ball. And we didn't get the ball. Now I'm hoping and praying come on defense. Look at the clock. Come on defense. We get the huge sack. Thanks goodness for Emmanuel Stephens. Then Kentrell Lockett and Patrick Trahan and Lockett sniff out a screen. Huge play to keep them close to the 50. Now they can't kick it. Now we're down to nine seconds left and they have no more timeouts left. Let's knock the ball down. We're in victory formation. That means victory. But it's fourth and 26. What do they do? They get 27. One second left. So I'm thinking. Looking at the ball. One second. I'm hurrying in my mind, please chain gang get down there fast. I want the referee to do this (wind the clock). And you're waiting on one last play. You think they'll either hurry the field goal unit out there or take a shot at the end zone. As soon as the ball was snapped, the clock read zero. Awesome. Good feeling then. Not until then, though.

Q: It seems like your defense has been able to fight through some injuries to continue to play well.

Nutt: Like I said Saturday night, Tyrone has done an awesome job. He's to me one of the defensive coordinators of the year. And because of injury. You lose a Greg Hardy. Fon Ingram has not been full speed. So you're hoping Johnny Brown and Kendrick, please don't go down. Marshay and cassius. Jeremy McGee's been hurt off and on. And the linebackers nothing but ankles. D.T. Has not been full speed since South Carolina. And it's a shame, because he's going to be something. Brumfield's had an ankle. Now Trahan's not full speed. So it's been a lot of guts, and Ty has put them into position. And it's not easy in this league with all the different sets, personnel groupings, all the different offenses. This is a very difficult offense this weekend. It's not just vanilaa. It's not just OK here they come and they're going to line up in this set and we know what they're doing. It's a lot of different sets. Lot of different movements. They try to scheme you a little with option. Option is always to me the X factor that keeps people off balance and slows you down. And it comes back to Dixon. Stop Dixon. And their offensive line is good. They've been around. You watch their defense and the defense is playing very, very hard. They've got some real talent and they've gotten much, much better.

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